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The Pickwick Papers 281







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advisable to pursue the discourse no further. Mr. Roker then proceeded to mount another staircase, as dirty as that which led to the place which has just been the subject of discussion, in which ascent he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and Sam. There, said Mr. Roker, pausing for breath when they reached another gallery of the same dimensions as the one below, this is the coffee-room flight; the one aboves the third, and the one above thats the top; and the room where youre a-going to sleep to-night is the wardens room, and its this way--come on. Having said all this in a breath, Mr. Roker mounted another flight of stairs with Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller following at his heels. These staircases received light from sundry windows placed at some little distance above the floor, and looking into a gravelled area bounded by a high brick wall, with iron CHEVAUX-DE-FRISE at the top. This area, it appeared from Mr. Rokers statement, was the racket-ground; and it further appeared, on the testimony of the same gentleman, that there was a smaller area in that portion of the prison which was nearest Farringdon Street, denominated and called the Painted Ground, from the fact of its walls having once displayed the semblance of various men- of-war in full sail, and other artistical effects achieved in bygone times by some imprisoned draughtsman in his leisure hours. Having communicated this piece of information, apparently more for the purpose of discharging his bosom of an important fact, than with any specific view of enlightening Mr. Pickwick, the guide, having at length reached another gallery, led the way into a small passage at the extreme end, opened a door, and disclosed an apartment of an appearance by no means inviting, containing eight or nine iron bedsteads. There, said Mr. Roker, holding the door open, and looking triumphantly round at Mr. Pickwick, theres a room! Mr. Pickwicks face, however, betokened such a very trifling portion of satisfaction at the appearance of his lodging, that Mr. Roker looked, for a reciprocity of feeling, into the countenance of Samuel Weller, who, until now, had observed a dignified silence. Theres a room, young man, observed Mr. Roker. I see it, replied Sam, with a placid nod of the head. You wouldnt think to find such a room as this in the Farringdon Hotel, would you? said Mr. Roker, with a complacent smile. To this Mr. Weller replied with an easy and unstudied closing of one eye; which might be considered to mean, either that he would have thought it, or that he would not have thought it, or that he had never thought anything at all about it, as the observers imagination suggested. Having executed this feat, and reopened his eye, Mr. Weller proceeded to inquire which was the individual bedstead that Mr. Roker had so flatteringly described as an out-and-outer to sleep in. Thats it, replied Mr. Roker, pointing to a very rusty one in a corner. It would make any one go to sleep, that bedstead would, whether they wanted to or not. I should think, said Sam, eyeing the piece of furniture in question with a look of excessive disgust--I should think poppies was nothing to it. Nothing at all, said Mr. Roker. And I spose, said Sam, with a sidelong glance at his master, as if to see whether there were any symptoms of his determination being shaken by what passed, I spose the other genlmen as sleeps here ARE genlmen. Nothing but it, said Mr. Roker. One of em takes his twelve pints of ale a day, and never leaves off smoking even at his meals. He must be a first-rater, said Sam. A1, replied Mr. Roker. Nothing daunted, even by this intelligence, Mr. Pickwick smilingly announced his determination to test the powers of the narcotic bedstead for that night; and Mr. Roker, after informing him that he could retire to rest at whatever hour he thought proper, without any further notice or formality, walked off, leaving him standing with Sam in the gallery. It was getting dark; that is to say, a few gas jets were kindled in this place which was never light, by way of compliment to the evening, which had set in outside. As it was rather warm, some of the tenants of the numerous little rooms which opened into the gallery on either hand, had set their doors ajar. Mr. Pickwick peeped into them as he passed along, with great curiosity and interest. Here, four or five great hulking fellows, just visible through a cloud of tobacco

The Pickwick Papers page 280        The Pickwick Papers page 282